Is nostalgia always a bad thing? The word can certainly have negative connotations – indeed, it was coined by Swiss physician, Johannes Hofer to describe a mental condition that impaired sufferers’ ability to function due to an overwhelming attachment to the past. Doctor Who fans can be a nostalgic bunch whose reverence for the show’s history sometimes makes them resistant to change even though that is a fundamental part of the programme’s DNA. (“That’s the trouble with regeneration. You never quite know what you’re going to get.”)
However, nostalgia can also, I think, be positive. It can have a celebratory aspect; it’s fun to look back at happy times and places, and to reflect on good things that have happened. That’s the spirit in which comic strip, The Land of Happy Endings is intended. It’s a homage to the earliest Doctor Who strips from TV Comic, in which the First Doctor travelled with his plucky grandchildren, John and Gillian. The story is a simple one, which is entirely fitting; very much in keeping with those early Doctor Who strips. In The Land of Happy Endings, though, John and Gillian travel with the Eighth Doctor.
The plot is straightforward. The TARDIS crew take a trip to an alien planet whose inhabitants have been subjugated by robots controlled by an evil scientist. The strip is a light-hearted romp with a twist in its tale in the form of a final, emotionally affecting page that apparently made some readers cry.
The Land of Happy Endings works brilliantly because it is a fantastically well-observed and affectionate homage, in terms of both style and content.
It has a decidedly whimsical feel. The Doctor is referred to as Doctor Who throughout, carries a bag that is bigger on the inside than without, and there is a suitably educative moral about the importance of ideas and creativity, at least until the final page where the narrative takes a sudden left turn.
The script, by Scott Gray, and art, by Martin Geraghty, of The Land of Happy Endings are a definite throwback to more innocent times. The abundance of captions explaining events that are also apparent from the strip’s visuals reflects the compressed style of TV Comic’s era of British comics. The art, meanwhile, employs a clean, relatively simple style that is reminiscent of Neville Main, one of the mainstays of the First Doctor’s early strips. Daryl Joyce’s and Adrian Salmon’s colours have a storybook feel that seems appropriate for such light-hearted fare. The whole story is delightful; a celebration of simpler times, at least in terms of the Doctor’s comic strip adventures.
The Land of Happy Endings can be found in The Flood, a trade collection of absolutely smashing comic strips that is a treasure trove of some of the best Doctor Who stories of all time (I’m a big fan of the Eighth Doctor strips from Doctor Who Magazine; can you tell?). You really should track it down!